Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Are you in a relationship with a narcissist?

Here’s a scary statistic; 35% of women report either a current or past relationship with a narcissist.  35%.  Are you one of us?  Are you uncertain?  Let me help you clarify.

~ You firmly believe that your partner is smarter, wiser & more capable of managing life.  You depend on him/her to help you navigate your life because they have helped you realize that you are unable to do this on your own.  Your thoughts & choices cannot be trusted because you have made some grave errors in the past.  He or she is more likely to provide a solution to the sticky situations you find yourself in.  Without their constant guidance, instruction or input you would not be able to complete even the simplest of daily tasks.  Tasks you thought you could manage, such as choosing appropriate outfits, how to properly clean a home, effective discipline for children and managing finances are too much for you.

~  Your partner is very compassionate about the abuse you have suffered in the past and understands that because of the damage done to you, you are too broken to survive on your own.  He or she is your protector, your hero.  Your partner can see through the manipulation of your family & friends.  He or she knows that you are unsafe with them alone.  Your partner has suggested that you start to create distance between you & the people you thought loved you.  To keep you safe from these people causing further harm to you, perhaps you should cut ties all together, because your partner is the only one you can trust to keep you safe.

~  Your partner is always considerate enough to point out that little changes would be a great improvement.  “It’s too bad you can’t put together an outfit like her.  She’s hot in those heals with her hair up like that.”  He is also very careful to point out that you do not suit an up-do in heals, because it makes you look like a hooker.

~  Your partner encourages open dialogue to discuss the relationship.  You feel valued when you offer suggestions for improvement and he explains the reality of your situation: “I wish you looked at me they way you look at her.” “I look at her that way because she is strong & confident, something you will never be because you’re too broken.”

~  There have been times when you have doubted the wisdom and the authority of your partner, but each time you question this, he is able to mention a friend or co-worker who feels the same way he does, thus proving that you are once again to broken to form an opinion about anything.

~  You are fully aware that you are damaged goods and are so grateful that your partner was willing to take pity on you and love you in spite of your past.  You are unlovable to everyone and without him to save you, you would be lost.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you are in a relationship with a narcissist.  Let’s insert the appropriate terms for each point above:

Gaslighting – creating uncertainty in your thoughts, beliefs & abilities.  This is used to diminish your self-worth and create dependency on the narcissist.

Isolation – creating distance between you & your support system.  With your family & friends out-of-the-way, your abuser has more control.  You are no longer guided by outside positive influences and are fully dependant on him.

Shaming – sounds like a compliment, but leaves you feeling small & insecure.  Used to reduce your self-confidence.

Deflecting – blames you for their indiscretions.  Narcissists are unable to accept responsibility for their actions.  They deflect accountability and choose to be the victim of others.

Triangulation – Bring a third-party into a conversation to back up their thoughts & beliefs.  Used to force you to second guess your thoughts & beliefs.

Projection – they are unable to accept their own feelings of worthlessness, so they cast these feelings on to you in such a way that you are convinced they are true.  They project their insecurities onto you.

How do I know this?

Because I was one of the 35%.  I was in an 11-year relationship with a narcissist.  I was told that he was forced to sleep with other women because my being pregnant made me fat (I gained 12 pounds in 9 months).  I was told that cocaine & hookers were necessary because of the burden I placed on him.  I was told that he deserved the settlement from my injury for dragging my sorry ass around all these years.  I was told that I was lucky to have him because no one else would put up with my stupidity & laziness.

I was also told that it didn’t have to be this way.  I heard whispers of strength & determination.  I saw the fear in the eyes of my daughters.  I heard the inner voice tell me that this is not what I would choose for them.  This is not the example I wanted them to structure theirs lives on.  They were worth more than this.  They deserved more than this.  They, my girls, gave me the strength & the courage to want more, believe more and hope for more.

How do you break free from a narcissist?

Start by listening for that voice.  The voice buried deep inside you that tells you this isn’t right.  The voice that brought you to this article.  The voice that has led you to secretly seek out alternative solutions, choices & possibilities.  Look around you.  Find your source of strength.  Is it in your children, your family or even a memory?  When you’re ready, reach out.  There is always someone close by that will support you.

  1. Contact your local abuse shelter: they will help you with a safety plan, housing & Legal Counsel
  2. Contact your local Police & tell them you are planning to leave a toxic relationship& ask for a Police Escort if needed. Let them know of any weapons in the home.
  3. Begin to slowly save & hide money.
  4. Pack a bag of essentials & leave it with a friend
  5. Download this Safety Plan for Domestic Violence 

You cannot fix this person.  They do not see themselves as the problem.  They feel you are the problem.

The honeymoon (those moments when you are treated like a queen, the apologies, the gifts, the promises) won’t last.  You know this.  This is just another manipulation tool to get you to stay.


You are never alone in this.  There are thousands of narcissists in this world, but there are millions of survivors.  When survivors band together, we begin to thrive, to dream, to create & to conquer!!  Together, we will change this world.  We’re ready for you to join us.  Let us know how we can help.

Click here to read more stories of survival.

Andrea Scarborough
Life / Parenting Coach

You Are Not The Failing Mom – There is Hope!

Dear Mom Who Feels Like She Failing

I see you watching your child struggle. Struggle with anger, aggression, anxiety or depression. You watch helplessly, as your child sinks further into an abyss you fear they will never return from. I see you tell yourself “this is just a phase, I struggled in high school too.”, but a piece of you knows this is bigger than that. You see how the behaviours of one child affects the entire family.  How it affects you.

  • You are riddled with emotional injury – every angry outburst directed at you, is like a gunshot wound straight to the heart.
  • You are exhausted – you can’t sleep at night because your child is out somewhere, with someone and all the horrible scenarios are playing through your head.
  • You are isolated – there is no-one to talk to about this.  Friends & family tell you how to “fix” your child, but they truly don’t understand just how difficult that is.  You are a social outcast, because everyone is judging you as a failure, and you know it’s true.

You have tried everything;

  • You buy them all the latest gadgets, brand-name clothes, vehicles – because they said that would make them happy.
  • You are spending hundreds of dollars on Therapy, but your child refuses to fully participate, if you can even get them to go.
  • Legal fees, court appearances and probation are forcing you to take too much time off work, but you have to go, because you know they won’t go if you don’t drag them.

Searching for Answers

You have spent countless hours searching for answers and all you’ve found is another vicious cycle of hopelessness:

  • Therapy
    • Too expensive
    • Free Programs are short term
    • Your child won’t go.
    • And the worst – “Your child is not bad enough to meet our service criteria.”
  • On-line Parenting Groups
    • Finally a place for you to openly talk about the issues at home.
      • But still – no real guidance, no solutions, & loads of underlying judgement.

What Am I Looking For?

If you could take a few minutes, with a clear head and really assess what it is that you are looking for in a solution, what would you come up with?

  • Something that can help me decide what kind of services we need?
  • A group just for women who support, guide & empower each other? No judgement, just unconditional acceptance? A place that will allow you to rediscover YOU?
  • A group of forward-thinking Moms who truly understand the emotional turmoil of raising a child who is struggling and are sharing helpful tips, suggests, support & understanding?
  •  Someone who could remind you who you were before all this negativity weighed you down?  Remind you of your inner Badass?
  • On-line courses that understand that you are over-stressed, under-appreciated, exhausted, overwhelmed and will still provide simple solutions to begin the healing process?
  • A person who has “been there, done that” and is able to support, guide, listen & understand (and it would be nice if this person was available exactly when shit hit the fan to help you effectively get through it)?
  • Hope, possibility, encouragement, support, guidance, love & acceptance?

I was searching too,

I spent over 10 years searching for solutions for my family.  I know the anguish, so I have done all the research for you!!  All the services, all the resources & all the supports; complete with direct links – and it’s FREE!!  Because someone needs to cut you a break!!

A clear, practical, easy-to-follow guide to the services, supports & resources that specifically meet the needs of you & your family?

I’ve made this so simple, because I know you don’t have the patience for complicated right now.

  1. Click on the link above.
  2. Enter your email address.
  3. Check your “other/junk/spam” folders.

That’s it.

You got this, Momma!  You are on the right path now. 

Much love to you & yours.

If you need me, I’m here.

 

 

 

 

Victim vs. Survivor

I am not a victim anymore.

I spent the better part of my life as a victim.  A victim of abandonment, bullying, sexual assault, abuse and others opinions of me and as a result,  all this lead to a very negative self-image, low-self-esteem and a belief that this was how it was supposed to be.  It was difficult to see past all the negativity because  I was surrounded by it, I physically experienced it, heard it, and I repeated it in my head.  It seemed as though it was a slow, never-ending journey down a very dark tunnel void of light, hope and love.

The Journey Begins

I am a survivor.
~ Patricia Buckley – I am not a victim.

Years ago, a friend of mine strongly urged me to attend a retreat for Co-dependency and  I’m not sure why I went, but I did.  Thinking back, I wanted to be surrounded by people that would support my role as a victim.  Turns out, I was wrong but I didn’t want to be.  I fought the messages that were offered because proving them wrong was the only way to survive this hell.  “Do you know what has happened to me all my life?  This isn’t my fault!!”  I would demand.

Through guidance, gentle persuasion and unconditional acceptance, I slowly began to change my thinking because  I was not a victim!!  I was a SURVIVOR!  The best part of being a Survivor is that to date – I have a 100% success rate!!!  The abandonment, bullying, sexual assault, abuse and all those harsh criticisms…. didn’t kill me!!  I survived!!

I Survived

The longer I survived, the stronger I became and with strength, came determination.  Determination grew into confidence.  Confidence had a sneaky way of nurturing self-esteem and a desire for more.  Ever so slowly, my thought process began to change and as a result, I began to believe in myself.

I am a survivor.
I survived that which was supposed to kill me.  Survivor!

Over the years, this transformation has had a lovely balance of ebb & flow to it.  A little rhythm that keeps me wanting more.  I still have hurdles, but they are manageable and they are the moments that allow me to reflect on the journey and assess my current situation and ultimately, perhaps choose an alternate path.

Without the hurdles of my past, I would not be the person I am today.  It took a lot of work, and as a result, I can honestly tell you, that I am a survivor and will never be anything less!!

Surviving Life with a Teenager

Surviving Life with a Teenager

Back when we were teens

Twenty-five – thirty years ago, the world was a different place.  The internet was in it’s infancy, cellphones were massive & usually installed in your car and satellite dishes were just making their way into homes (or backyards).  Kids played outside with their friends and were involved in after-school programs, community groups and sports teams.  At home, there were chores to help out around the house.  In high school, you had a part-time job with the responsibility of getting there unsupervised.  School projects were researched in the library using a very heavy set of Encyclopedia’s and pictures cut out of magazines (cut & paste had a much different definition).  If there was a question to be answered, you had to go find an adult.   Back in the 80’s or 90’s, life was a little simpler and the world just a little smaller.  Our basic needs were met through interpersonal relationships that do not exist today.

Today, with the internet at our finger tips and cable TV, our children have access to information 24/7.  Not all the information is helpful or accurate.  Today, we have an extreme influx of Teens diagnosed with Depression & Anxiety.  Today, we also have a government that feels they are being helpful by making prescriptions free to those under 25 (but we’ll talk about that in a later post).

I recently read an article  by Johann Hari “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?“**  Hari talks about his search for answers regarding his own clinical diagnosis and comes across some very interesting points to ponder.  The outcome is a new thought process surrounding depression & anxiety – yes there are biological components in some cases that may require medications combined with therapy to over-come, however; there are key factors to how we live today that directly contribute to these diagnosis.

So, let’s compare 1980 to 2018.

 

In the 80’s, kids played outside.  Their friends were physically connected, by streets, school, teams, relations.

Face to face relationships teach us a multitude of skills:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social skills
  • Team-work
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Compromise
  • Accountability
  • Honesty
  • Self-esteem
  • Patience

Physically connecting with people also serves our basic psychological needs of belonging, acceptance and value.  We, as humans need to belong to a group.  We were not designed to be solitary and thus we live in colonies or families and communities.  We need to feel as though we are a valued member of the group; our thoughts, feelings and opinions matter.

It is believed that some diagnosed cases of depression or anxiety are rooted in denying basic psychological needs and thus we have the influx that we are seeing today.  There is also growing research that tells us that technology has the same effect on the brain as heroine or cocaine.  Creating a strong, debilitating addiction.

Creating Stability

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair, is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – a deep connection, to the things that really matter in life. ~ Johann Hari

If you have a Teen that is struggling, take a look at the broader picture.  Are their basic needs being met? Do they have the skills they need to succeed?  Do they belong to a group?  Do they feel valued?

When one member of the family struggles, the entire family struggles.  I have found that the best way to create stability in the family is to look at the family as a whole.  Raising children today is difficult, I know that.  We are rather quick to point the blame to external forces rather than admit that perhaps we are less than perfect.  There are no perfect parents, but I will tell you, the best ones are the parents who are willing to take a look at themselves to find solutions for their children.  It’s not about what you’re doing wrong, it’s about finding processes that fit your family, and the needs of every individual in your family.

Getting your family back on track may not be a long, complicated process.  We may be able to find solutions and implement processes  that will see dramatic results in as little as 6 weeks.  Together we will explore the processes that work for your family, and through simple conversation, a few fun & engaging games, we will begin to implement strategies that ensure basic needs are met.  We will expand your awareness and allow you to visualize your family’s unlimited possibilities.

Let’s start a conversation.

I’m ready when you are,

Loads of love,

~Andrea

 

Reference:

**Johann Hari 

“I’m tired.” she said.

“I’m tired.” she said.

Tired of taking the blame, making excuses and following the rules.

I used to have dreams, hopes and a very clear vision of how my life would play out.  I wanted a career, a family, vacations and friends.  I wanted to be happy, secure in myself and feel safe.  I wanted all of that.

Somehow, I find myself trying to live up to someone else’s standards.  Someone else is calling the shots, making the rules and creating the expectations and try as I may, I am losing myself in this process.  I used to have the ability to make decisions.  I had a choice, I had a voice.

Now, all of that is gone.  You took away my power, you hushed my voice.  You said no one would listen to me.  You said I was wrong.  You said it was my fault.  You told me I am weak.  You made me feel stupid.  You took away my friends and shunned my family.  I am alone with you now, and I am afraid.

I am afraid for my safety, maybe not physically, because you have never laid a hand on me.  But I am afraid of hurting myself because I am unable to live up to your standards.  I am afraid of the world around me, because you said I wasn’t strong enough to handle it.

My life was not supposed to be like this.  How did I get here?  How do I get out?  I am in a dark hole.  I cannot see the sun.

I look at this huge scary world around me and I see people laughing.  How can you just laugh without someone telling you the joke was funny?  Aren’t you afraid your laugh is too loud?  What did you have to do to get permission to be with friends?  I’ll bet you’ll be in trouble when you get home.

Hanging out with friends is a distant memory, but it is a fond memory.  If I allow myself (in the quiet moments while you are gone), I remember laughing.  I remember not having to worry about what time I got home.  I remember choosing who I spent time with.  If I really work at it, I can remember.

It is these memories that get me through.  It is these quiet times, when you are gone, that I am free to remember, free to feel, free to just be.  I know I can’t spend too much time in my memories, and I know I can never share them with you.  It is a sacred place in my heart and in my mind that keeps me going.  There is a voice in these memories that speaks to me.

This voice tells me I am strong.  I am smart.  I am tough.  I can be more.  I can want more.  This voice tells me I belong in a sidewalk café enjoying a coffee with friends.  This voice gets a little bit louder each time I visit my memories.  I am so torn.  Torn between who I thought I was, and who you say I am.     There is something missing.  A piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit.

I know you are stronger and wiser than I am, but I just have a feeling.  A feeling that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Other people look so happy and free.  I think I want to try that.  I want to experience joy (is that even a word, I’m not sure).  I want to feel the sunshine on my face and drink coffee with friends.  I used to be quite smart, I wonder if I still am?  In my memories I dreamed of living by the water, playing on the beach and I think I felt important.  What if there is truth in my memories?

You are so brave going out into the world everyday to earn a living for us.  I could never do that.  You said the world would just eat me up.  You said I’m not strong enough or wise enough to venture out there.  You said that I am grateful that you are willing to do this for me.  Am I grateful?  I’m sure I must be, but this doesn’t feel like gratitude.  This feels like obligation.  I think I want to try.  I think I am going to try. I think I can.

The voice in my memories is growing louder.  It is telling me that I am tired.  I am tired of being at fault, taking the blame and making excuses.  I am tired of living by your rules.  I am tired of trying to be the person you expect me to be.  I am tired of not being me.  That’s it!!  Right there, with you, I am not ME!!

I am going to be me!  I am strong.  Strong enough to venture into the world.  I am smart.  Smart enough to know there is more to life.  I am tough.  I am tough enough to break though all the pain, the heartache, the disappointment and find a way to be ME!

“I am tired,” she said, “tired of you.”


If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact your local Abuse Hotline for help!

When you are ready to create your future, please contact me.  I will help you get there!!

Read more stories of survival here.

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My Name is Jenny

My Name is Jenny 

Written & submitted by Jenny Ambrose of Puree Fantastico

I am the Best Small Graphic Design Business in Los Angeles for 2014-2017, winner of Addy awards, owner of all of the awesome. Spreader of the joy, font knowledge, and endless gradient (and glitter!) love. Encourager of the silliness, the feeling of freedom, and the loudest laughter.

But I am also the same person who suffered through PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder from 10 to 28, has had to deal with colonoscopies and laparoscopies BECAUSE of those disorders, but I am also the person that found a way to heal. Really, fully, entirely heal. I’ve changed things about myself I used to take wholly for granted. In my mind and my heart, I’ve changed right down to the cellular level. My mitochondria sing the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma

Joy

To walk away fresh and renewed, happy, fulfilled, and whole by 32; walking away from a life of chaos and parents each emboldened with their own special flavors of narcissistic personality disorder and into a life full of heart and authenticity. My inner voice is my own, and the boundaries I have are grown from a solid foundation within myself. I lovingly nurture a life composed of a wonderful equally strong and tender marriage, FIVE relentlessly needy (but totally loved) animal babies, hilarious, intelligent, grateful friends and colleagues who lift me up, support me, challenge me, and contribute to my craziness (aka The Kubrick project!). I am loved in my life, and most importantly, I am loved BY my life.  

I truly believe that it was my multitude of passions that allowed me to connect deeply with my truest self, carving a pathway overriding all of the nonsense that was to come. It was listening to my truest voice when all others tried so hard to drown it out. It was following my gut even though I thought I was diving head first into the deepest pools of insanity. There were times when nothing made sense, and times when even the things I thought made sense was nonsense but sticking with myself has always lead me exactly where I need to be.
So, whatever you do, wherever you are, and whatever you are faced with– always choose you. You will always make the best choice there is. I promise.


Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your story!!  As I said to you, your energy precedes you!!  Thank you also for contributing the artwork for this post!!  It is beautiful and expressive!  

Please Leave Jenny a Comment below and be sure to subscribe to my blog to read more fantastic stories of triumph, adversity, success & survival!

If you’d like to share your story, schedule your FREE Session NOW!

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The Phoenix Rises

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

How The Hell Did I Get Here?

Written by: Staci Hissong – Staci is a gifted & compassionate Life Coach using her story to empower others.


Standing with my back against the wall, literally and figuratively, with his hands on either side of my shoulders and it struck me; “How the hell did I get here?

Of course, that is not how my story started. That is not how any survivor’s story starts. Most stories start with glitter and rainbows, with affection and love, with gifts and adoration. And then it’s like a fucking switch flips and you are left standing in the dark with confusion and hurt. My story is not the exception. It starts when I was a 19 year old, college sophomore during “Welcome Week,” out with my friends and deciding to leap up and kiss a ‘friend’ that would turn in to so much more. It started innocently enough; a lot of flirtation, hook-ups, and laughter. Feeling carefree and understood, moving from the occasional hook-up to actual dates to staying the night with each other every night. Sleeping alone became a thing of the past, which is quite hilarious to me now that two full sized humans slept in a twin-sized loft each and every night because the idea of being apart was more uncomfortable than the actual closeness the beds provided. The first year continued with butterflies and unicorns and I did not believe it could be possible to be happier. Then summer hit. We were thankfully from the same hometown so we did not have to figure out distance in our relationship, but we did come from different socioeconomic situations. His Dad would write a check for his tuition each semester, and I sit here 12 years after graduation still paying off my loans. This meant I had to work every day that summer, so I did.

 And that is when the switch flipped.

He no longer was the center of my life. I had to do what was best for me, and that was finding a way to sustain living through the upcoming year with work. He started getting angry at me all the time because I could not go to every party. I could not stay out all night. And I would say no to things, which was completely different from how the previous year of our relationship had been. The arguing started, and really never stopped. Everything was consistently my fault because I did not put our relationship first. He hated this and let me know with his words. Very loud and hurtful words at times which I will explain later. He then decided we needed to “take a break until we got back to school,” which I later found out meant he was sleeping with another girl from home but wanted to get back to our relationship when he had my undivided attention. I was devastated, heartbroken; but I figured there were only a few weeks before we went back to school, so it would all work out.

 “Welcome Week” was upon us again and I anticipated things going right back to normal. But little did I know, that was not his plan at all. He wanted his cake and to eat it to. He invited this girl up to school, and SHE was the one to tell me she started sleeping with him. Are You Fucking Kidding Me? This has got to be a joke. All while he was telling me we were “working things out,” he “loved me,” we were “meant to be.” Well fueled by heartbreak and a lot of liquor, I walked in on him with her at this party and instead of being the stereotypical girl and going after the “other woman,” I went after him. I punched him repeatedly in the face and busted his nose. His very fit friend had to lift me off of him with such force I had finger bruises on arms from the strength he had to use due to my adrenaline. As I stood there, he just kept calling me a “crazy bitch,” over and over and over. A term he used quite often when speaking to me. A term that set something off inside of me due to my history with depression and anxiety, as well as self-harm behaviors. All things that he knew about me and used against me at the drop of a hat. Knowing that I was terrified that I may actually be “crazy,” he took every opportunity to reinforce that fear. Every interaction over the last few months between us had been toxic. Ending in screaming and crying and just plain ugly words being spewed.

 At this point, I should of walked away.

That’s what you would have done right? He had finally made it apparent I was worthless and everyone else thought I was crazy, so why in the fuck would I ever even speak to him again? Well, because I loved him. Did you just say, “how?” to yourself? Don’t worry, today that is what I say too, but understand he had taken the power and control from me and from our relationship well before this situation happened. I was dependent on any morsel of attention and positive words he would give me. And without fail, two days later he called, we talked, worked it out, and went back to dating. The thing was, he continued to sleep with this other girl…for what I found out later was months. And I caught him many more times; and he managed to convince me I was the crazy one for driving by his house to see if she was there or going through his phone when he walked out of the room. So, I forgave him every time. Each time, losing more and more of me. I lost like 30 lbs in a month from the stress, lost friendships because I would not allow myself to see what they saw, and just chose to look the other way.

 The Honeymooning

The thing was, if you did not know what was being done and said behind closed doors, you would have thought we were good together. Until we added the alcohol and my insecurity crept out and his vulgarity towards me crept out and we would cause a scene at every party. And then go home together afterwards like nothing was abnormal. He consistently told me what a worthless piece of trash I was and how lucky I was to be with him.

 I stayed in this relationship until right before my 22nd birthday. Almost three years. Three years of questioning my sanity. Three years of him whispering “You’re crazy” to me in front of people where no one else heard until I would lose it and he would be like what are you talking about? Legit, making me look crazy!! In front of friends, at the bar, in an elevator with a stranger in Chicago. Any time he could. Three years of on and off toxicity. One time I followed through with ending the relationship. He called me 53 times in an hour without me picking up. He called my parents who told him I was back at school, when in reality I was not. I got a call from my roommate shortly after that he was at our door screaming and pounding on the door and she did not know what to do. I recommended she call the police, but that never happened because he left and started calling my phone again. Then he left me a voicemail stating he needed to talk because his mom was sick, and he needed me. I fell back in, and within a week, right back to the screaming and name calling. On my 21st birthday, I went hard as many people do on their 21st while away at college. He carried me back to his house, which everyone gave him so much credit for taking care of me. We went into his room and started having sex. Well I was definitely too drunk to do that, and the motion made me vomit down the side of his bed. He picked me up, threw me in the shower and left me on the floor in there for I could not even tell you how long. The next morning his roommate told me he could hear me crying through the wall; saying that I was going to die and he wanted to come in and help me but knew I was naked and felt like that would violate me. My boyfriend was upstairs, so the roommate went up to tell him he could hear me, and my boyfriend did not budge. He kept drinking and left me there. When he finally came to help me out of the shower, we went back into his room where he brought new sheets and stood there while I was made to change them since I was the one who got sick on them. I stayed with him still for almost another year!!!

 It finally ended, 

It finally ended one night when he picked me up from the bar after a bar crawl and he was yelling at me and I just did not care anymore. I had no reaction. He yelled more, I just did not have it in me to fight back. He said it was over and I said ok. (He was also sleeping with a mutual ‘friend’ of ours by this point as well). I felt free. I was ready for it to be over. I finally was done, relief! But it again would not prove to be so easy. He had expected me to fight to keep the relationship as I always did, and when I did not, he became infuriated. He began calling me repeatedly again and telling me he wanted everything he ever bought me back. I finally just said fine and threw up my hands. If that would end this, then I would give it all back. I walked over to his apartment, which by this point we only lived like seven minutes apart on a walk and gave him the bag of stuff. He said he was going to give me back everything I had bought him. I stated repeatedly I did not want anything back because that was not how gifts worked and he got so angry. He began screaming and yelling at me that I was going to take it all. Upon refusal again, he picked up the DVD player I had bought him and threw it at my head. Now I don’t know if you all remember how heavy DVD players were, but they were not these lightweight things like Blu-ray players are today. I moved and did not get hit, but I remember being completely frightened for the first time of him in that moment. He emotionally hurt me, verbally abused me, spiritually broke me, but he had never laid a finger on me. But in that moment, I felt that possibility upon me. He lunged at me and I flinched. I will never forget what happened next. He backed me up against the wall in his dining room with his hands on either side of shoulders and said “You think I’m going to hit you? You really think I am going to hit you? If I was going to hit you, I would have done that a long time ago!” I moved out of the way and left the apartment. That was it, it was the moment, the breaking point. I knew we were completely over. On that seven-minute walk home, he called my phone numerous times and left me four voicemails. The final voicemail stating I was a “fucking cunt who should’ve killed [myself] a long time ago” and would “never amount to anything and be poor” and would be “worthless without [him] because no one else would ever want [me].” I got home, locked that apartment door as hard as I could and sat in my room and sobbed.

 We saw each other out in public regularly following that. There are only so many bars in a college town after all, and we had many of the same friends. Many more ridiculous exchanges, or avoiding one another, for the final two months before graduation. I saw him a few months later back in our hometown. I broke down and slept with him only to find out he was still seeing that mutual ‘friend’ of ours and made sure to let me know after we had sex that he was glad he was done with such a “whore” like me. And that was that. We were over, ties cut. Until three years later when he was at a bachelor party I think, and he called me and begged to see me, still with the same girl from the end of college. He had nothing but negative things to say about her and just showered me with words of affirmation. He just kept saying we were too young when we met and the love he had for me was just too intense for that age. And even then, there was a part of me that believed that to be true. I refused to see him though so at least there was some progress on my part.

 The Journey to Myself

Fast forward to five years after graduation, I was beginning an internship for my Master’s degree in counseling at a domestic violence shelter. Before you can work there you have to go through an intensive 40-hour training course. The first day of the training they defined domestic abuse. HOLY SHIT! I had been in an abusive relationship? Are you fucking kidding me? But he never laid a finger on me! How is this possible? But it all made so much sense. I cannot be around men who raise their voices, I had severe trust issues in relationships, and I felt pulled to this internship for some reason. I had been going to therapy for about four months at this point and I walked in to my next session and said, “Did you know my college relationship was domestic abuse?” My therapist threw her hands in the air and said “Oh, thank god! I have been waiting for you to get there!” I suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following this relationship. My view on a relationship was so fucked up it made sense why I could not make one work and I kept choosing the wrong men.

 So here I am.

Twelve years removed from the relationship, seven years after realizing that I was in an abusive relationship throughout college. This is the first time I have ever put pen to paper about it, or more so fingers to keys. I actually just verbally told my story for the first time last October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month to do my part in spreading the word that not all abuse looks the same. I can tell you in writing this, I still cannot believe that was me. I am such a different person today than I was then. First of all, I am older and wiser and the regular grey hair I have to color proves that. But more than that, I have grown as a person and as a woman. I was so quick to judge when I was younger, and I can guarantee if someone else told me this is how their relationship was I would ask them what the hell was wrong with them to stay? And now, I understand there are so many underlying factors to an abusive relationship that others will not understand. And yet, almost all of these relationships are the same at their core. It is about power and control for the abuser and stripping you of who you are.

 Healing

This process has taken a very long time for me. This is not something that I got out of magically found glitter and rainbows again. Um, fuck no. It did not happen like that at all. It is only over the last year that I can share this story without shame; still not without anger but I am working on that. It took therapy, self-reflection, and a lot of personal development to get here. And where is here? Well I now own two of my own businesses, I have a Master’s degree and am a Licensed Professional Counselor, and I can finally say that I can see some good in the world. I am mindset coach now for women to help them build their confidence and learn how to move forward in life.

 Empowering Others

I love that I get to empower women each and every day. If you find that you are still in a toxic relationship, YOU ARE WORTH MORE! I know nothing I say to you can make you fully believe that, but I hope that in reading this story you can see that you are not alone and there is a strong network of women who will help uplift you when you are ready.

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Tina’s Story

LeeAnne’s Story

Denyse’ Story

Kim’s Story

Her Story – The Phoenix Rises

We all have a story.  Some of these stories are cherished memories, but often times, they are stories of tragedy, horrors, abuse, neglect and shame.

I have a few of these stories myself.  Stories of abandonment, neglect, shame, violence and abuse.  It was years of toxicity from people I trusted.  People who, by position in my life, were supposed to keep me safe, guide me & nurture me.  Sadly this wasn’t the case.

It took me a long time to see that this didn’t have to be my “norm”.  I didn’t have to be abused, I deserved to love & be loved, safely, confidently and honestly, without judgement.  I have been on my self-healing journey for 15 years now, and I grow stronger everyday!!  Today, I am much wiser, more confident, more self-aware and have the ability to say “NO” when I need to.  This is an amazing life I live!!

However; I am all too aware that there are still so many caught in this toxic life.  Women who are abused, physically and/or emotionally.  Women who are desperately trying to safely raise their children in a unhealthy, toxic environment.  This is no place to raise a child and it is no place to build a strong woman.

I have decided to do something.  I can’t sit and idly watch as this continues.  I am who I am today because someone dared to give me a voice.  I was allowed to tell my story.  The more I spoke, the less I feared.  It is now my turn to offer this same gift.

This is the first in hopefully a long series of blog posts. I am offering women a chance to tell their story.  Stories of past or current trauma.  These stories will be written into blog posts and shared with the world.  Anonymity will be offered for those who need it.  I will also link back to you, if you use your story to help heal & encourage others.

I will give you a voice.  Like the Phoenix, we will rise!  Together.  

If you, or someone you know would like to participate in this series, you can contact me here.

Please share this post.  We need to turn up the volume and tell our stories!!

Tina’s Story

Denyse’ Story

LeeAnne’s Story

Thank you, to all of you who supported me on my journey.  This wouldn’t be possible without you.  xoxo

 

Why I Do What I Do?

I do this because I don’t want your family to go through what my family went through.  I do this because I want to help you avoid the hard lessons I had to learn.  I do this because I don’t want you to sit in an emergency room listening to the doctor tell you how close your child came  to successfully committing suicide.  I do this because I have learned that if dysfunctions in the family are caught early enough, they can have successful outcomes.

As a Result of my Family Dysfunction

I have spent the last 10 years working with children with extreme behaviours.   Every one of these kids reported family life that was riddled with strife; divorce, abuse, addiction, trauma, death, or general lack of structure.  Each of these kids began to act out for 2 reasons:

  1. Negative attention was the only attention – they felt they didn’t exist unless they gave their parents something to scream about.  Positive behaviours were expected – good grades, obey house rules.  They felt they were not acknowledged for the good things, but they were for all the bad, and the bad always got worse.
  2. Trauma / abuse within the family – every family have a history.  There is some sort of trauma in the closet.  My family was abuse, divorce, life-threatening illness, un-intentional neglect and a lack of coping skills for all of us.  The kids I worked with reported similar issues.

The Coles-Notes version of my family story

I had 2 beautiful little girls and an sociopathic husband.  As my awareness of his disorder grew, so did my strength.  I eventually asked him to leave and we divorced (no…it wasn’t that simple).  This was both a relief and a point of insecurity for the girls and I. Shortly after this, my oldest daughter was rushed to emerg with a  pulmonary embolism.  This is a life threatening blood clot in her lungs.  She was 14.  My entire world flipped upside down.  I spent every waking moment trying to balance her care and protecting my little one from the devastating news.  Somehow, we saw the light at the end of this tunnel and she recovered.  I knew I hadn’t recovered, but as a single mom, there just wasn’t time for me to break down, so I pushed on.

In the next four years, I remarried.  This time to an incredible, kind, caring man.  We had support, but my trauma was still very evident (to everyone but me).  Then the same daughter who was deathly ill, was involved in a single vehicle roll-over that most people wouldn’t have survived.  Again, I threw myself into caring for her.  Again trying to balance a healthy child with a sick one.  Little did I know, my healthy child wasn’t so healthy.  She had begun to self harm, hid in her room and withdrew very deeply into herself.  And this is where my learning began.

I Learned

Life has a funny way of teaching us things we don’t want to learn.  In order to help my child with her mental health, I had to help me with mine.  I had to show her that it was possible.  Children watch us like little hawks.  She needed to see me growing, learning, dealing, coping and this began her journey of growth.

My Journey Has Lead Me to You.

As every member of my family embarked on a journey of self-discovery (we all had skeletons), it became clear that we were not the only ones struggling.  I turned my career to support children of abuse and neglect.  I loved working with these children as I was able to witness amazing feats of determination, strength and resilience.  But each one of my clients had the same secret wish – they wished their entire family could support their growth and celebrate their potential.

So, I am here to help you to help your children.  I understand that life happens.  I understand that we, as parents don’t always have the time to take a step back and deal with our skeletons.  As much as we try to avoid it, our “stuff” usually becomes our kids “stuff”.  I also understand that as a parent, it is really hard to determine when, or how, or even where to seek support.  I have made it very simple and hopefully non-invasive.  On the left hand side of this post, you will see available free downloads.  Start here and reach out when you are ready.  There is hope, let’s try to catch it early.

As always, loads of love

~AndreaFamily Coach

PS: Update – my girls have both grown into amazing young ladies!  They are both using their own talents to help others and our family only grows stronger with time.  Yours can too…

Family Structure

Inner Workings of a Family

Family, the first group of people we know.  We depend on our family to help us create a sense of self.  Our Family gives us anchor in a crazy world.

Think of someone you know who has suffered a heart attack.  The immediate response is not to shame the heart for stepping out of line.  We do not ask the kidneys or the liver to pick up the slack.  We certainly don’t kick the heart out until it changes its behaviour and try to go on with out it.   We don’t blame some external force for the heart attack.

To effectively treat a heart attack, we examine all aspects of the body, internal functions & external forces to create a well-rounded plan to prevent further episodes.  We look for ways to reduce both internal & external stressors.  We improve our diet, our physical exercise and work to reduce the toxins going into the body.  We find ways to reduce our stress at work & at home.  A heart attack is a symptom of a much larger problem – lifestyle.  To prevent another episode, we change our life-style.

The same can be said for how we address challenges within the family.  A struggling child is merely a symptom of a dysfunction within the family.    These dysfunctions can be addressed quickly providing the family as a whole is willing to look at both the internal & external stressors and adjust the lifestyle of the family to prevent further episodes.  But how do we do this?

Join a Community of Parents just like you!!

Let’s first begin by defining your role.  I’ve met many families where roles are reversed – the man is the mom and the woman is the dad, or same sex parents, or platonic friendships raise the children, whatever your family looks like, let’s first figure out who you are.

The Mom

  • Nurturer – provides the soft, emotional guidance to children
  • Nester – creates a loving, stable environment
  • Sustainer – provides essentials to sustain life – nourishment, medical care
  • Teacher – promotes transition of milestones – sitting up, first steps
  • Soft skills – interpersonal relationships, empathy, critical thinking
  • Emotional – guided by gut instinct and emotions

The Dad

  • Provider – earns the most money
  • Protector – creates a level of intimidation to outsiders
  • Gatherer – brings in food, clothing, shelter
  • Disciplinarian – teaches the hard lessons – natural consequences
  • Hard Skills – problem solving, using tools, maintenance of home/car, catch a ball
  • Logical – guided by reason & logic

These are just guidelines.  The Mom may be the nurturer, the nester, the sustainer, the provider and the teacher of hard skills.  My point is, which one best describes you and your role in the family?

As we continue in this post, these are the terms I will be using, not the stereotypical mom is a girl, dad is a boy.

Roles of the Children

The children take on various roles as well.  Depending on the level of conflict in your home, your children will adapt to their surroundings. Psychologists have studied family dynamics and determined that there are 4 personas a child will develop to manage their family situation.

The Pleaser
  • Takes care of the emotional parent and the other siblings.
  • He/she tries to ease the stress in the family.
  • Steps in during times of conflict to try to minimize the situation.
The Scapegoat
  • This child is blamed for the faults of others.
  • The result is anger and self-defeating behaviours.
The Hero
  • The golden child.
  • Works hard at school, get good grades, helps around the house.
  • Truly believes that if she/he is perfect enough, the family problems will go away.
The Lost Child
  • Quiet, withdrawn, depressed & anxious.
  • Chooses to be alone.
  • Takes the blame for the issues in the family.

Murray Bowen – The Bowen Centre for the Study of Family

It is the nature of a family that its members are intensely connected emotionally. Often people feel distant or disconnected from their families, but this is more feeling than fact. Families so profoundly affect their members’ thoughts, feelings, and actions that it often seems as if people are living under the same “emotional skin.” People solicit each other’s attention, approval, and support and react to each other’s needs, expectations, and upsets. The connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in the degree of interdependence, but it is always present to some degree.

This “emotional skin” that Bowen speaks of explains a lot about what happens in your family.  When your teenager screams something very hurtful at you, you take this personally.  She has rocked you to your core.  No-one will ever hurt you as much as a member of your family because you all share the same deep-rooted emotional connection.

When your children were little, you could see that their emotions mirrored that of the emotional parent.  They were learning from you how to react to situations.  If you were scared, they were scared, if you were stressed, they were stressed.  You eventually picked up on this and tried to shield your emotions from your children.  But it always seemed as though you had a fussy child at the most inconvenient time.  Temper tantrums would erupt when you had to race around to complete errands, meet deadlines, clean the house and put on your happy pants because the in-laws were coming for dinner.  Today was not the day for this child to be miserable – you did not have time!!  The reality of this scenario is that your child was simply mirroring your stress & frustration.  Their little worlds were out of balance because you were out of balance.  You ask them what’s wrong and the usual answer was “I don’t know.”  How could they know, they were just picking up on your emotions and reacting the only way they knew how.

During times of adult stress, we tend to focus our attention on the stressor; bills, errands, relationship, politics or world drama.  We create space between us and our children to shield them from these stressors.  Our role as parents is to protect our children.  However; we have unknowingly created the opposite effect.  As we will discuss in a future module, the connection between family members is so strong that it will predict future outcomes.  Children develop a sense of self by watching you.  They learn what scares them, what pleases them and what nourishes them.  Their likes, dislikes all come from the family.

The less developed a person’s “self,” the more impact others have on his functioning and the more he tries to control, actively or passively, the functioning of others. The basic building blocks of a “self” are inborn, but an individual’s family relationships during childhood and adolescence primarily determine how much “self” he develops. Once established, the level of “self” rarely changes unless a person makes a structured and long-term effort to change it. – Murray Bowen

In short, if a parent is unable to truly connect with a child, this alters their sense of self, their place in the family.  They will search for ways, either actively, or passively to find a connection – to someone or something.  This is the root of family issues.  This is where the regression started.

In a regression, people act to relieve the anxiety of the moment rather than act on principle and a long-term view.– Murray Bowen

Let’s fast forward to today.  You are sitting here desperately seeking information on how to help your teenage child.  They have lost their way.  They are struggling, and it is manifesting in a variety of ways; poor grades at school, victim of bullying, hanging out with the wrong crowd, lack of motivation, experimenting with substances, self-harm or addicted to technology.

You are a strong parent and your child is not living in line with the values you tried to teach them.  You taught them to respect others, do their best, and be a productive member of society.  So where did it all go wrong?  How did we get here?

Think about the emotional connection you have with this child, the connection they have with other members of the family.  Could it be that they feel a disconnect?  Whether or not it is physically present, could they perceive themselves as an outsider, or not worthy?  Was there a time, when your attention was focused elsewhere?

I want to take some time here and explain that I too had a child that acted out.  She was the Lost Child, spent most of her time alone, engaged in self-harm and lacked enough drive or determination to pursue her own goals in life.  I spent countless hours searching for answers.  We spent years going from one psychologist to another, treatment programs, emergency rooms, and I eventually had to take a year off work to care for her after a rather serious attempt at suicide.  I felt as though I had failed her.  She was this vibrant, beautiful little girl with an infectious smile, and somehow, she became withdrawn and highly introverted.

In my years of research, I discovered several helpful hints and an equal number of not-so-helpful hints.  My goal is to spare you the years of searching for answers.  I may not have them all here, but this will be an excellent place to start.  This will give you the foundation to move forward.

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Like you, while I was raising my children, life happened; abusive relationships, divorce, single parent, job loss, and older daughter became seriously ill and was involved in a potentially life-threatening car accident.  These are things that I couldn’t control.  I now know, that these are all considered trauma.  Traumas that I did not have time to deal with.  Traumas that I pushed aside for the betterment of my children.  This is where my younger daughter lost her connection.  I am very happy to report, that we have worked hard to re-establish her sense of self & her sense of connection.  We still aren’t perfect, but we keep trying.

Today, all my children have tools that will serve them well as they become parents.  We have learned to openly, respectfully & effectively communicate.  We have learned to lean on one another and rally to support each other.  Together, we have created a legacy that will continue through future generations.  You can do this too.

I can’t promise you it will be easy, but it will be worth it!!

It is my hope that you have a greater understanding of how you got to where you are.  My intent is not to blame you for the position you find yourself in, but to create awareness.  Dr. Phil, and so many others like him, tend to blame the parents for the mistakes of the child.  This is not my intention.  My intention is to create awareness that while you were busy, parenting, working and reacting to the situations before you, things happened.  Things that are not apparent in the beginning.  Sir Isaac Newton said, “Every action has an opposite & equal reaction.”  This is what happened.  You did not fail your child or your family, you simply reacted with the information you had at the time.

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